In a landmark decision striking down states' same-sex marriage bans and effectively bringing marriage equality to the entire country, the Supreme Court did something important: it took the time to explain – hopefully, once and for all – that marriage equality does not hurt male-female couples.
This topic doesn't normally get much serious attention because, to many gay rights advocates, the idea that marriage equality threatens the institution of marriage just seems silly. It's normally dismissed out of hand and met with sarcasm.
In 2010, before widespread support for marriage equality swept the nation, Whoopi Goldberg said in a oft-quoted quip in a video for Fight Back Pac in support of same-sex marriage, "Really, darling, it's a no brainer. You know, I understand not everybody is for gay marriage. But if you're not for gay marriage, don't marry a gay person. That's what I say."
Way back in 2006, this cartoon by Dan Wasserman, the Boston Globe's political cartoonist, challenged readers to contemplate how in the world same-sex marriages could hurt their own unions:
But in its majority decision, the Supreme Court took seriously the argument that legal same-sex marriage harms the entire institution, dedicating a long paragraph of the opinion to unpacking its flaws and concluding that "it is appropriate to observe these cases involve only the rights of two consenting adults whose marriages would pose no risk of harm to themselves or third parties." The full section reads:
The respondents also argue allowing same-sex couples to wed will harm marriage as an institution by leading to fewer opposite-sex marriages. This may occur, the respondents contend, because licensing same-sex marriage severs the connection between natural procreation and marriage. That argument, however, rests on a counterintuitive view of opposite-sex couple's decisionmaking processes regarding marriage and parenthood. Decisions about whether to marry and raise children are based on many personal, romantic, and practical considerations; and it is unrealistic to conclude that an opposite-sex couple would choose not to marry simply because same-sex couples may do so. See Kitchen v. Herbert, 755 F. 3d 1193, 1223 (CA10 2014) ("[I]t is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of the love and commitment between same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples"). The respondents have not shown a foundation for the conclusion that allowing same-sex marriage will cause the harmful outcomes they describe. Indeed, with respect to this asserted basis for excluding same-sex couples from the right to marry, it is appropriate to observe these cases involve only the rights of two consenting adults whose marriages would pose no risk of harm to themselves or third parties.
Hopefully that — along with the fact that no one's marriage ends up damaged by the landmark ruling — will settle it.